Sept. 29, 2009
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - With a 5-2-1 start, the Cal State Northridge men's soccer program has matched their best start since 2005 and has done so by displaying depth and diverse styles of play on the field.
Under Head Coach Terry Davila, the Matadors have produced a winning product consistently year after year. With a coaching staff that puts an emphasis on recruiting talented freshman, Davila has not limited his recruitment to local players. Instead players from across the world have been coveted and have made it to Matador Soccer Field.
Similar to recent years, the 2009 men's lineup contains several international born players, with this year's installment containing talent from various portions of the world. Players such as Sunghyun Kim (South Korea), Milan Radovic (Peru), Rene Anguiano (Mexico) and Yuval Barak (Israel) have brought an international flavor to the Cal State Northridge soccer program.
The Matadors have a tradition of recruiting international players in recent years. Over the past decade, there have been a total of at least three internationally born players on each Matador roster, with as many as eight in 2001, seven in 2002, six in 2003, five in 2004 and seven total on the 2009 roster including Camilo Rojas (Columbia), Nick Ptchelarov (Austria) and Adrian Lopez (Mexico).
During Davila's tenure, many of the international players have produced some of the more impressive and most successful collegiate careers ever seen in the history of the Matador soccer program. Yossi Raz (Israel), Willie Sims (Guatemala), Edwin Miranda (El Salvador) and Charles Mitchell (Guam) are just some of the outstanding players who have worn the Matador jersey in recent years and have gone on to have unforgettable careers.
Raz, who became an assistant coach for the men's soccer team in 2005, is the only player in Big West Conference history to earn All-Conference First Team honors in each of his four years (2001-04), as he finished with 22 career goals and 28 assists (fifth all-time). Sims is sixth in school history with the most goals scored (35) and is the recipient of a host of collegiate awards, which include 2003 Big West Freshman of the Year, All-Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and a three time Big West First Team honoree from 2003-05. Miranda (2000-03) finished his playing career with ten goals and 18 assists, an all-league honoree in his final three years, a back-to-back Big West Defender of the Year from 2002-03 and has played for the El Salvador national team. Mitchell finished with 21 career goals and had a 2002 All-Conference second team honor.
Among the current crop of international talent, the tradition of excellence on the field has continued.
Kim has cemented himself as one of the most successful and dynamic scorers in the league. In three years, the senior midfielder has received three consecutive All-Conference honors, including a Big West Conference Second Team honor during his freshman campaign, an honorable mention in 2007, and a first team award last season. Kim was also named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Far West-All Region Second Team in 2008, when he totaled five goals and seven assists bringing his career numbers to 15 goals and 12 assists coming into 2009. This season Kim is at it again, as he has accumulated two goals, three assists and 14 shots on goal already through eight games.
Freshmen Anguiano and Barak are enjoying nice starts to their respective Matador collegiate careers. Anguiano has played in all eight games this season, starting in six and has an assist with four shots on goal. Barak has started two of the six games he has appeared in and has taken three shots with one on goal.
Senior forward Radovic has appeared in all but one game in 2009 thus far, scoring a goal with an assist and totaling two shots on goal. He picked up a goal last season, playing in seventeen games after taking a one year hiatus in 2007.
Raz, who was born in Natanya, Israel, feels that the international players bring a different style of play to the field.
"We are attracted to quality style of soccer and the internationals bring something a little different than local talent," said Raz. "The coaches around the world teach the game in a different method, therefore they develop players in different styles."
Although he was born in Los Angeles, freshman Anguiano spent most of his childhood in Michoacán, Mexico, playing in several soccer leagues, including playing on a third division team when he was fourteen years old. Anguiano echoes the same sentiments of Raz, about the game taking on a different feel in the United States.
"The style of play here is tougher compared to over in Mexico, where there is more technique involved," said Anguiano.
Born in Lima, Peru, Radovic also feels that the style of play oversees is different, "It is definitely not as physical as it is right here. It's more slower and a lot more technical in Peru. Everybody here is athletic and more physical."
Although the style of play is different, the players who have come from countries around the world have displayed the skills and talent to adapt to a much different game here in the states.
South Korea's Kim has been in the United States since 2001, but did acquire the roots of his soccer background in his native Seoul, South Korea. There, Kim endured rigorous workouts that gave him the work ethic to succeed on the field.
"I started playing soccer in elementary school," said Kim, who was a member of the Korean U-15 National Team. "In South Korea they practice two to three times a day."
While multiple practices a day may seem excessive, it seems to be a significant difference in how the game is taught oversees in comparison to the United States, with the philosophy focused on breeding fundamentally sound soccer players.
The differences not only are limited to the practices, as many of the international players are used to a soccer game that is wildly popular in their respective home countries.
"In Peru, we also practice three times a day," stated Radovic. "Soccer is really big there. Everything revolves around it. Sometimes school doesn't really even matter only playing soccer well."
Barak, who was born in Tel Aviv, Israel has traveled and seen the popularity first hand of soccer throughout the world. Prior to joining the Matadors, Barak served for the Israeli National Army and was an Israeli champion on the U-17 team. He also is an Israeli cup holder on the U-19 team and Israeli cup holder runner-up on the U-17 team. Barak noted that the immense focus on soccer for athletes in this country is vastly different to countries around the world.
"There are lots to improve here," said Barak. "Where I come from, we play soccer on the streets. They have soccer goals everywhere. In the high schools here, I hardly see any soccer goals, only basketball baskets."
In addition to the popularity of soccer here differing from their respective countries, the international players face the challenge of living up to a reputation of bringing a higher level of play to the field.
"It's a challenge for me because in Mexico, soccer is the number one sport," said Anguiano. "Since I am coming over from there, everybody thinks I am good. So I have the responsibility to show the style we have and display it here."
Along with their unique talent, Raz feels the international players are all positive people that have made the Matador soccer team and program stronger on and off the field.
"All of are international players are fantastic individuals to start with. Great academically, with great mannerisms, great personalities, very polite," added assistant coach Raz. "On top of all that, they are all fantastic soccer players. Both Kim and Milan grew up in this program and developed within this program and brought a different style into this program and we are learning how use their styles to the best of our ability. Yuval is a newcomer to our program. We are excited about him. He is an older, mature individual and we predict a bright future for him. They are all class and represent our program in a positive light."
With the start of Big West Conference play starting tomorrow, the Matadors will look to blend a very diverse and talented team into one, mixing a wide variety of styles from around the globe, in hopes of bringing the first conference crown since 2005.